The NCAA Tournament begins Thursday with eight matches, two each at Texas, Florida, Texas A&M and Western Kentucky. The rest of the field gets under way on Friday.
Tulsa and Santa Clara won their first-round NIVC matches and eight more are on tap for Thursday.
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And there were two new coaching openings, at South Florida and Fairleigh Dickinson.
NCAA: In Austin, Texas, action opens with Sun Belt-winner Texas State (24-8) playing UC Santa Barbara (22-5), an at-large from the Big West. Then second-seeded Texas (21-3), which tied for the Big 12 title, facing America East-winner Albany (16-10).
(See Megan Kaplon’s story about the Texas regional on VolleyballMag.com).
At Florida, ACC at-large Florida State (19-9) plays American Athletic-champion UCF (24-7) before 10th-seeded Florida (25-4), which tied for the SEC title, takes on SWAC-champion Alabama State (17-21).
FSU is just one of 11 schools to reach the tournament every year since 2009. UCF is in the tournament for the 10th time and first time in back-to-back years since 2003. Florida has faced Alabama State three times before and won all three, all in the first round of the NCAA tourney. Alabama State, which finished fifth in the SWAC and then won the tournament and the league’s automatic bid, is the only team in the field with a losing record.
At Texas A&M, Big 12 at-large Oklahoma (19-8) faces Conference USA at-large Rice (26-3) and then 13th-seeded Texas A&M (21-7) plays Big East-winner St. John’s (22-11).
Oklahoma is back in the tournament for the first time since 2014. Rice is in for the second straight year. The teams haven’t played in 10 years. A&M plays the upset queen of the field in St. John’s, which finished fourth in the Big East but then knocked off Creighton and Marquette to win the conference tournament. The Red Storm is in for the first time since 2007 when it got to the round of 16.
At Western Kentucky, the first match pits Big South-champion Samford (24-5) against ACC at-large Louisville (19-9) before 15th-seeded WKU (31-1) plays ASUN-winner Kennesaw State (22-8). Samford has won 12 matches in a row, while Louisville has bounced back from losing its best player, Melanie McHenry. Kennesaw State is in for the second time in three years but faces a WKU team that has won 27 in a row.
NIVC: The first night of the tournament was a tough one for the Big West.
Tulsa of Conference USA beat UC Davis of the Big West in four and Santa Clara of the West Coast Conference went overtime to win in five at Long Beach State of the Big West. Tulsa and Santa Clara play their second-round match Thursday at Long Beach State.
Thursday’s NIVC schedule of first-round matches shows TCU vs. Miami, Kansas City vs. UNLV, Sam Houston State vs. Houston, Boise State vs. Weber State, Purdue Fort Wayne vs. Bowling Green, Central Michigan vs. South Dakota, UTSA vs. UT Arlington, and Northwestern State vs. Wyoming.
Tulsa (16-15) beat UC Davis (17-13) 20-25, 25-13, 26-24, 25-20 at Long Beach. Dilara Gedikoglu led with 10 kills, a block and 17 digs. Callie Cook had nine kills, hit .368, and had nine blocks, three solo. Maddie Rhoder had seven blocks and seven kills and Maggie Hembree had six blocks, three solo, and five kills. UC Davis, which hit .076, got 13 kills from Lauren Matias, who had two assists, an ace, three blocks and five digs …
Santa Clara (21-11) won 25-20, 25-23, 22-25, 23-25, 16-14 at Long Beach State (12-17). SC, down 14-13, tied the match in the fifth on a kill by Julia Sangiacomo, took the lead on another kill from the freshman, and won it when Michelle Shaffer’s serve hit the net and dropped over for the point.
Sangiacomo finished with 21 kills, hit .463, had three of her team’s five aces, eight digs and four blocks. Allison Kantor had 22 kills, hit .295, and had 14 digs and two blocks. Taylor Odom had 12 kills, hit .360, and had four digs and 10 blocks, one solo. Kathryn Decker had 10 kills, 12 digs and two blocks. Shaffer, the setter, had two kills, 57 assists, that big ace, 13 digs and four blocks, one solo.
Yizhi Xue led Long Beach with 17 kills and hit .484. She had an ace, two digs and a block. Katie Kennedy and Kashauna Williams had 14 kills each and Tia Chavira had 12 kills, an assist, an ace, seven digs and a block. Carly Aigner-Swesey had two kills, 50 assists, two aces, 10 digs and two blocks.
Coaching carousel: There are now at least 17 Division I head-coach job openings, four in the power fives (Auburn, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Rutgers).
The latest are USF of the American Athletic Association and Fairleigh Dickinson of the Northeast Conference.
Courtney Draper is out after eight seasons at USF. The Tampa school finished 7-23 this season, 1-15 in the AAC. She was 117-135 overall.
Fairleigh Dickinson was 4-26 this season, 3-13 in the NEC and coach Andrea Nolan-Boyd is out after six years overall, the last three as head coach. The last time FDU finished over .500 was in 2011.
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